‘Sometimes I go to the tavern and get drunk.
What of it?’
Bars tend us in our brighter afternoons
toward the gentler tenses: conditionality,
subjunctivity, would reign within
their glasses’ stains, so that it might
be possible to claim, if there could be a bar
where Lorne Greene drank, post-Battlestar,
a whole Bonanza shot – if these
could somehow have been filmed
within these Borders, in this North East –
then it would be here where the piano is
forever paused, the Cylons placed on charge,
beneath this rippling cream ceiling motif
not so unlike the way his hair was combed.
In fact no keyboard need be present, just
the suspension of its mammoth tooth-tonk
will suffice, any further note defeats
both memory and prediction of our tune.
In fact succession can find no hook here,
like the gecko’s rubber foot, baffled by
some non-surface, some lack of wall,
the brim of things must suffice for now.
The soft stabilities of brass and glass
in late Saturday sunlight, unsure
if it’s still summer, gloss on green leather,
wrought-iron table legs tucked under sight,
polite as beetles, suds amounting to
a glaucoma lens of foam, and the muted flame,
haemetite immersed in the alien finger-
length depth of the pint’s remains.
Lorne must rejoin us, his stunted doubles, here,
and pay off all his gunless hands with ale:
all princes among men are here disinherited
of their kinricks; in fact are here defined
by abdication of any claim upon the future.
Lorne! Lorne of the sausage
they do not serve here at six o’clock
alongside the pork pies and many fatty nibbles;
Lorne of the flattened sausages of Scotland
as though the issue of a union between
minced meat and a carpet tile!
Lorne of the knitted sausage: only here
in the debatable territories between North Shields
and Tynemouth do we approach
the hidden etymology of his name,
Lorne as desire beaten flat with a patterned hammer!
You’re lulled by recumbent frosted curves,
hill-silhouettes rolling across the panes,
one Jane Russellesque boob of which seems
tattooed in drunk Cyrillic, this bar’s good name
picked out in clear glass, subjected to
a backwards encryption which reveals beyond
as autumnal, each letter burning copper
as if through a map. Above them sit dark suns,
the off propeller blades of unrequired ventilation
(since no-one within can either smoke or breathe):
surely this means you’re no longer sitting here,
surely you have passed right through,
and rest within the bower of those boughs,
tricoloured into yellowed glade, glad shade
and fish-depth green, their tolerating sway,
like looking up at seaweed when you’re drowned.
You’ve reached the point where each theme,
each mouthed approximation of your days,
those chapters you’ve inhabited like cotton,
becomes equally accessible, equally remote,
and at that moment, you are become robot,
mute, unnecessary and beyond all script,
you are no longer little nor a Joe, who,
according to the thinking of his genitals,
is perfectly attractive to the ladies.
You have become the last animal, the lost anomaly,
an apology for a noun, the verbs’ anthology,
each thought its own tautology, each nerve
as an autonomy, you’re less than an anatomy:
a machine that can’t reset,
the beast that must forget –
although no Houhynym would know you and rejoice,
no cowboy Cheiron ever cite you as his boss,
you have become, to use the parlance of these parts,
a son of Adama, a half-life, a second Hoss.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
WN Herbert is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University. He lives in a guiding lighthouse on the river Tyne.